Another Year


Miserably boring

Main cast:  Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville

Writer/Director: Mike Leigh

On paper, it looks like just my cup of tea.   Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen star as Tom and Gerri, an aging English couple.  Happily married for many years with a grown son, friends and family surround their bubble of happiness with dysfunction and misery.  I love dysfunction and misery.  I love Jim Broadbent.  But Another Year almost put me in a coma.

Writer/director Mike Leigh gives us a season by season look at the lives of Tom and Gerri.  Their lives have constants like their garden, their son and their drunken, miserable friend Mary (Lesley Manville).  We see those constants in each of the seasons.  A lot of those constants.  Long, lingering shots of gardening and Misery Mary.  We also see long, slow conversations with friends, relatives and other peripheral characters about how badly their lives suck.  Imelda Staunton makes an inexplicable appearance in the first section as a client of therapist Gerri.  She’s the essence of misery – can’t sleep and clearly hates her life.  We see her one time, establish her unhappiness and then she disappears, never to be thought of again.  Throughout it all we have the stable and happy main characters cryptically remarking on everyone else’s crappy lives.

The only things keeping me from slapping Another Year with one star are the performances of Broadbent and Manville.  Broadbent is, as always, engaging and believable in his role as the practical but optimistic retiree.  Manville is somewhat amusing as the hyperactive, scatterbrained, aging alcoholic Mary.  She balances comic, tragic and painfully awkward well.  Unfortunately, there’s too much of her – she wears out her welcome as a character as she wears on our nerves as she does on those of Tom and Gerri.  I also like Karina Fernandez who shows up late in the movie as the new girlfriend of the grown son.  She’s bubbly and cute and lights a tiny spark in this dull mess.  Too bad good performances can’t salvage crappy material.

The bottom line is that Another Year is slow, boring and depressing.  The main characters have almost no dialogue of substance and very little actually happens.  I’m all for a nice, depressing slice of life, but Mike Leigh gives me nothing to hold onto here.  Tom and Gerri aren’t particularly likable, Mary is annoying and the rest of the secondary cast is given very little to do.  Watching someone have mundane, everyday snippets of conversation with unhappy people is simply not enough on which to hang an entire film.  The dialogue has no sparkle or flow; it’s just a series of awkward, stunted vignettes.

I wanted to like Another Year.   The cast, the misery, the dysfunction are all there.  Unfortunately, Leigh fails on nearly every level to put them into an engaging whole.   Unless you’re a Leigh enthusiast, a Broadbent completist or are just looking for a sleep aid, you can safely skip Another Year.  Two stars out of five.

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